Praise for Perfect

“. . . discover anew the power of the Gospel to awaken your life and the irresistible invitation to fall in love with the ‘wildness of God.’”     —Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, author of Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most

Marilyn and I have been friends and Young Life colleagues with John and Gae Wagner for over twenty years. We have watched them learn the lessons and gain the insights that John shares in this book. He tells the truth. He is authentic and honest and helpful in what he writes. I encourage you to enter the Wagners’ world!”     —Denny Rydberg, President, Young Life

When God transforms the heart of a man through the precious gift of a most remarkable son, that father has something pretty profound to say to us all. That’s John Wagner in his new work, Perfect—you’ll be deeply blessed by his stories, insights, and practical encouragements. I heartily recommend this small but significant book you hold in your hands!                                                                         —Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

“This is an incredibly moving devotional written by an overachieving father who learns how to receive everything he was trying to earn. And his teacher is his son who has Down Syndrome. I was one of the Wagner’s pastors when David was born. I remember praying that his family would find him to be a grace from God. Clearly, that is exactly who David has been. This book reveals how those with a disability have the extraordinary ability to show us what it means to be fully alive. Read it slowly, and keep the tissues nearby.”     —Craig Barnes, President, Princeton Theological Seminary

“In brilliant form, Perfect captures the essence of life with Jesus—through the experience of parenting a special child. John’s vulnerability is a gift to each of us, helping us redefine God’s ideals and discover a father’s unconditional love for his children.”     Gabe Lyons, Author, The Next Christians and Founder of Q

“For all of David’s life I have had the opportunity to watch John and Gae parent him. You see in spring of 2000, when David was a baby, John invited me to join the Young Life staff with the goal that there be Young Life for David, and other kids like him, by the time David would be a teenager. John’s desire for David to experience God’s love has motivated him to take huge risks, to advocate hard for kids that were being overlooked, and to dive deep into God’s love himself. As with most things with God, the journey has been different than expected; the lows have been very low, but the highs have been amazingly miraculous. Through it all, John will let you know that he has seen God clearly and come to know God better through life with David. And the good news is—the joy, the smiles, the delight, and the dancing are not over yet!”   —Pam Harmon, Vice President of Young Life Capernaum

“Irresistibly compelling & bracingly honest, this isn’t a book to devour in a hurry. Read it slowly...savor the stories... experience the difference between believing that God is love and experiencing the love of God. Perfect will lead you into the heart of God, which is the finest recommendation I could give any book.” —Fil Anderson, Executive director, Journey Resources, author of Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers

“Watching John’s relationship with his son David is a window into the life with God I long for. Perfect will introduce you to the outlandishness of God’s love in the midst of profound challenge. John’s reflections on life with God, through his life with David avoid sentimentalizing piety and cynical acquiescence. The joy of this father and son relationship inspires me to hope beyond hope.” —Jason Gaboury O.P., Regional Director NY/NJ, Intervarsity Collegiate Ministries

“Vibrant. Beautiful. John Wagner’s transparent stories of his precious relationship with his son David welcome us right into their midst. The book is a dynamic love letter inviting us to participate in the unbridled hope and possibilities of life lived fully and well. John’s winsome way makes us want to be part of his story—and then we see that we are. Powerful. Clear.” —John Featherston, Senior Director, New Ventures at Chick-fil-A, Inc.

“I have known John Wagner since he was a fresh-faced Wake Forest graduate who moved to our neighborhood in Washington DC to hang out with teenagers. John is the real deal. He is passionate about grabbing kids with the good news that Jesus loves them unconditionally. In Perfect: Sacred Stories from the Heart of a Dad, John shares what his youngest son David has taught his family, and all of us, about God’s joyous, contagious love. This book will melt your heart with a fresh perspective on our Father’s abundant grace amidst life’s valleys and mountains.” —Dennis Bakke, Author of Joy at Work, Co-Founder and Chancellor, Imagine Schools

“These insights run deep and come from a place of vulnerability that is life giving to all who dare to take them in. Life takes on a new dimension when you can’t hide or pretend, and when you dare to no longer make excuses. But it is so liberating when you have eyes to see what so many of us miss every day simply because we hide, pretend and make excuses. Within these pages you’ll be invited to a new place, a place of freedom and hope. A place that a special relationship between a Father and his one of a kind son have to offer. Get ready to laugh, cry, hope and be challenged.”   —Pat Goodman, Director of Men’s Ministry, Grace Fellowship Church, Young Life National Training Consultant

“At first, this powerful memoir of raising a special needs child will strike you as the inspiring story of how someone else has risen to life’s challenges. Then it will challenge you to explore deeply what it means to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted, and to face your own struggles with joy. With honesty, humility and humor, John Wagner has written a testimony that perfectly integrates Scripture and life experience. Perfect shows us what it means to live an imperfect life rooted and grounded in love.” —Rev. Donna Marsh, Associate Pastor, National Presbyterian Church

“I’ve spent years interviewing remarkable people--people who have amazing lives or incredible talent or stunning luck. I’m not sure any of them could reflect as deeply, or as amusingly, as John Wagner has on what their experiences have illuminated about living, relationships and faith. To many people, David would seem like a burden. John has proved he’s a blessing. This book just pulses with joy, wisdom, hope and funny stories. (If you hate the way you laugh, you might want to read chapter 14 in a solitary place.)” —Belinda Luscombe, Editor at large, TIME magazine.

“In Perfect David and John encourage us to live more authentically from our hearts. A “look no hands” joy ride through the ups and downs of life that lands you smack dab in the loving arms of God.” —Chuck Millsaps, President, Great Outdoor Provision Co.

“When I was in college, I took a course on the original indigenous peoples of America. Many of the groups elevated those with mental or physical disabilities to the highest status, as “gods who lived among them”, because they possessed supernatural, divine-like attributes. John captures these realities present in his son David, while at the same time, encourages us to grow into them, with the help of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t your normal devotional, happily so. It is fun, honest, and deep.” —Ty Saltzgiver, Author of My First Thirty Quiet Times

“David’s life is an incredible gift to his father, and John Wagner describes the life-transforming lessons he has learned through David, with such poignancy and joy. Through David, John has learned about the unconditional love of God for all. As their pastor, I have seen David’s irrepressible spirit making him leap up in dance to the music in worship, and John’s unabashed joining in the dance. John’s journey with David--moving, ebullient, peppered with marks of God’s grace, is written with humor, thoughtfulness and such joy.” —Rev. Milind Sojwal, Rector, All Angels Episcopal Church, New York City

“I just finished reading this amazing book cover to cover. It is a love story between a dad and his son who becomes his mentor. A young man whom the world considers a tough luck case. John Wagner takes us on a journey of what’s under the veil. Jesus himself disguised as his son. Read, laugh, cry, wonder and be changed. And find out about how a wild crazy God reveals himself precisely and most powerfully through John’s son. I am happy for you if you just picked this book up to read.” —Nick Palermo, Founder of Young Life’s Capernaum Ministries, Author of Missing Stars, Fallen Sparrows

"John, 
Your book is wonderful. I started to read it a chapter a day as you intended but I have sinned. I believe we share some type 'A' tendencies and I did not want to wait a month to get to the end. I do plan to return to the beginning and do it daily as a devotional. 
You have done a beautiful job of blending and integrating your personal feelings and experiences with David and your family with a very strong message about Jesus. This was a real inspiration to me and gave me better insights into the person of our Lord and Savior. 
Perfect will be read for ages to come. You have made a significant contribution to Christian literature. Thank you so much for doing this."

"John,
I purchased a copy of Perfect and have just finished reading it. What a delightful and meaningful experience!
Perhaps you know that Paul had an older brother, Sam, who was handicapped and died at age five the same year Paul was born. Reading your book brought back many memories that I had forgotten (or suppressed) years ago. Though our experiences differ, the spiritual impact was very similar and I must confess that I frequently felt the tears welling as I read . Though Sam was born almost sixty years ago, the emotional roller coaster it produced has never quite gone away. 
God blessed us then and has continually thereafter. As you so wisely stated, the circumstances were used to teach many, many lessons."

"Dear John,
We just finished your book.  We have been reading a chapter a night, taking time to read the scriptures, answer some of the questions, and have loved the prayers at the end.  We both feel like we have been allowed to visit with you, Gae, Michael, Jessi, and David over these last several weeks, and we have had great fellowship.  Thank you for allowing us to do that.  There were times we wanted to laugh (and did), and times we wanted to cry, (and did).  You shared your heart with us in such an unbelievable way.  As you said, “Sacred.”  Somehow we never knew anything about David before hearing about PERFECT.  We are better individuals after reading this book.
If I started commenting on each chapter, this email would be much too long.  Just know that our hearts are filled with endearing and lastly memories.  You made it possible for us to join you in the events of your life and see certain things from an entirely different perspective.  You told them with mastery and sensitivity.  You told them with Holy Spirit gentleness.  I imagine you and the Lord spent a lot of quality time writing this together!"

"John:
I am in the midst of reading your wonderful book and wanted you to know how very much I am enjoying your writing, the stories about you, David, Gae and your older children. The questions at the conclusion of each chapter have been challenging at times but also caused me to go deep in thought - to certain places and events I had chosen to ignore or bury, places I had avoided for a variety of reasons.  So, thank you for your faith, struggles, honesty, humility, sense of humor among other endearing qualities.
Also wanted you to know that I have ordered this book for two young fathers - one a son, the other a nephew - one having wondered from his faith, the other just starting to question if he should believe in Jesus due in partly to the loss of his own Dad thru tragic circumstances. I am praying that thru your openness, struggles and offered prayers the Lord will do mighty things - that the hound of heaven will pursue these young men & the Lord will use your book in a mighty way in their heads and hearts!"

"John,
I just wanted to tell you how much I have appreciated your book "Perfect." This morning during my time with the Lord, I read the chapter "My Daddy" and it has been a game changer. The discipline of consistent time alone with God has been a lifelong battle for me. But to hear that My Father simply wants to spend time with me, love on me, talk to me - or not talk at all, just be with me. I am blessed to have a godly, loving earthly Father, and when I think about how much I love spending time with him and the things we do when we spend time together, it really takes the mystery and the formality out of time with God.  I know it should be pretty simple, but thanks for simplifying it for me in your writing. It has been and enormous blessing in my life."